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Using Photoshop and Lightroom Together

I am on a few photography forums and a question that comes up quite regularly is 'Which is better? Photoshop or Lightroom?'

My response could be 'None or Both!'

Let me explain why below:

Adobe developed Photoshop and Lightroom to compliment each other which is why they are both provided in Adobes Photography Plan Subscription.

Please note this is just my findings and opinions and wont cover absolutely everything but is just to give people and idea of how they work together.

Lets start with Lightroom:

Lightroom, in its simplest form, is a database which you import your images into and it keeps a record of where they are imported and what changes have been made to them.

Therefore Lightroom would be the starting point for getting your images from the camera to your computer.

The process is pretty straightforward using just a few steps:

If you are using Lightroom for the first time you will want to create a catalog.

This is the database for the images you are about to import and being a database it can be as small or as big as you like.

People have different ways of working with catalogs, some create a new catalog for every shoot, others may create a catalog for every style e.g. Studio Shoots, Landscape Shoots etc etc

I personally create a catalog for each year.

There is no right or wrong way on how catalogs are created but it is recommended that the catalog is created on the fastest hard drive you have which is normally the built in drive. Don't worry about disk space because it is just the catalog that is stored there not the actual images which will be explained later.

Once the catalog is created you can then start to import your images.

The best way to do this is to buy a card reader which is very inexpensive these days. Get the fastest you can as cost doesn't vary much. For example USB 3 (at time of writing) 

With most cameras you can connect them directly to a USB port on your computer and transfer directly from the camera but in general this is considerably slower.

If you have Lightroom running when you plug your memory card or camera into the computer you will be automatically presented with the import dialog asking you where you want to import the images.

If you launch Lightroom after inserting your memory card/plugging in camera, no problem just click on Import.

You can now choose where you want to import your images to.

As mentioned previously, your catalog is on your fastest drive but this does not mean the images have to be imported to their, they can be imported anywhere you like as the catalog will only be keeping a record of where they are, not storing the actual images. This is a misconception a lot of people get.

Once imported into Lightroom you will see the images as thumbnails in the Library Module

Now they are imported you can work on them:

Managing images in Lightroom

Now that your images have found their new home you can get down to the business of working on them in various ways.

The first thing I do is to weed out the images that I don't want due to them being.....well.....crap! e.g. Out of Focus, or lots of very similar images etc etc.

This is very easily done by pressing X on each image I want to delete which will mark them for deletion and then once I have finished I can go to the Photo menu and choose 'delete rejected photos' where it will then ask if you wish to remove them from Lightroom or delete them from your computer completely.

Next I rate the remaining images on a scale of 0 (No rating) to 5. This is done by pressing 0 - 5 on the keypad and they can then be filtered by their rating which I will cover later.

So, in my case, images rated 5 are ones I will definitely edit later, 4 are most likely to be edited, 3 are maybes if I decide I need more pictures etc etc

Once I have rated my images I can then set a filter to show me, for example, only the ones rated 5.

To do this you will see a filer bar at the top of the gallery of thumbnails, you select Attribute and then set a rating of 5. This will then only show the images with the relevant rating. 

This filter bar can be used to filter images by Date, Camera Type, Lens Type, Shutter Speed, Keywords, basically anything you want which can help a lot when sorting through lots of images.

I may do a separate blog on filtering images etc as I am realising as I type this it is getting to be a longer blog than I expected when I started it!

Editing Images in Lightroom

One of the best things about Lightroom is that any changes made to an image is non-destructive so no matter what you do, if you don't like it you can reset it back to its original 'out of camera' format even if you have quit out of Lightroom and come back to it at a later date.

This is because of the database nature of Lightroom; as well as a reference to the location of the original image any changes made are stored in a 'sidecar' file rather than applied to the actual image.

The other advantage of this is, if you have a lot of similar images and you want to apply the same basic settings, such as Exposure and White balance to all of the similar images its simply a matter of editing the first image to your liking by double clicking the image which will bring it up full screen and put you into the develop module where you can apply the changes and then while that edited image is selected in the filmstrip below select all of the other images in the filmstrip by holding down shift and selecting the last image of your selection and then clicking Sync and it will apply those setting to all the other images. Another way of doing it is, one you have made the changes click Copy, choose what information you want to copy and then go to the next image and click Paste.

The Develop module is where you do all of the editing and this is automatically opened when you double click an image in the Library module.

A powerful feature of the develop module is that you can work on RAW files directly within Lightroom as its uses Adobe Camera RAW which is what you see if you try and open a RAW file directly in Photoshop.

If you shoot in RAW you will know that all information is captured in camera but the settings such as white balance and colour settings are only applied to the JPG preview that you view on the back of the camera the rest can be changed later in Lightroom (or Photoshop)

I shoot in RAW so the first thing I do in the develop module is to set the white balance to match the scene I shot in, if there isn't a scene that works perfectly I can move the temperature slider and tint slider to get it how I wanted. Sometimes I cheat by choosing auto and then adjusting those auto setting to suit.

Once white balance is set I basically play with the other sliders to get the image how I want it to be. There are a lot of settings within the develop module and far too much to cover in this blog but maybe I will cover this at a later date.

Again, once I have found a setting I like I may sync it across multiple images to save time even if I do decide to tweak the other images afterwards.

Remember though, if you have got a but trigger happy with the settings you can always undo them or reset the image back to its default settings as the changes are non-destructive

Using Presets

Another advantage of Lightroom are Presets.

These are a collection of settings such white balance, exposure, sharpening, shadows/highlights etc saved in a preset which can be applied quickly to other images.

To create a preset you edit the image to your preferences in the develop module and when you are happy you click on the + next to Presets and choose create preset at which point you can give it a name and tick which settings you want to use.

I create presets to make things quicker on the various shoots I do. For example I have a preset called 'Outdoor Car Show - Sunny' another called 'Indoor Car Show' or another called 'Track Racing' each will have specific settings to suit the environment they were shot in.

Exporting images to Photoshop

There is lots more that can be done in Lightroom but I know this blog is getting too wordy as it is so lets briefly cover how Lightroom and Photoshop work together.

Once you have made the changes in Lightroom you may want to perform more detailed editing in Photoshop and this is how Lightroom and Photoshop compliment each other.

Within Lightroom all you ave to do is right click on one of your images, choose 'Edit In' and then select Photoshop.

The image will then launch Photoshop and open the image within it. If it was a RAW file it will be converted to TIFF as default as Photoshop cannot work directly on RAW files and TIFF is one of the best formats for keeping quality as high as possible as it isn't a 'lossy format' If the images were JPG or another common format they will open as the same format in Photoshop.

You can then do additional work within Photoshop that wasn't possible in Lightroom such as layers or more detailed editing and then once you have finished you simply click 'Save' and the editied image will be sent back to Lightroom as a TIFF file (or JPG etc) leaving the original RAW file still in Lightroom but with the newly edited TIFF alongside it.

Obviously you could always export/or save as straight from Photoshop to the format you want but I think its better to work with them from within Lightroom

Back into Lightroom

Now your fully edited image is back in Lightroom you can still do more with it, you can edit the TIFF file even more if you want you can apply  keywords to images or rate them again.

Another powerful feature of Lightroom is exporting, especially if used with Export Presets.

In the Library module you can select one image or as many as you want and then choose File - Export.

You will then be presented with the export dialog which lets you choose where you want to export the images, file type, colour space (note - use SRGB for web and printing), image size, image quality, sharpening and add watermark if you choose.

When you have selected your export options its worth taking a second to click Add under the preset window and giving the export a name e.g. Facebook sized as this means next time you can simply select 'Export with preset' and choose the preset you want to use.

I have presets that resize the image to 2048px on the long edge with a watermark in whichever corner I wish so for example I have a preset called Facebook TR which exports in Facebook size with the watermark in the top right corner.

This is a real time saver as it means I can select a whole gallery of images and just export once and the relevant settings will be applied upon export.

You can also download lots of presets and plugins from third parties, for example I have a SmugMug plugin so I can quickly export images directly to my website

Summary and a couple of tips

There is a lot mores tuff I could have covered such as collections and more details on the filter option but i'll be impressed if you have read this far so I am going to leave it at that except for a couple of tips I have found when using Lightroom

Tip 1 - In the Photo menu check Auto Advance. This means when you tag an image e.g. to mark to delete or give it a rating the next image will automatically be selected this makes it much quicker when tagging images

Tip 2 - If you don't like working with TIFFs in Photoshop or want to apply a specific colour space you can do this by going into Preferences and selecting the External Editing tab. This is also where you can choose additional external editors which appear when you choose the 'Edit In' option on an image

I hope this was informative and, as I always claim, I am no expert but I just like to help others where I can.


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